Spot.us has taken up the cause of the underprivileged journalist. The "community powered reporting" website that provides journalists with funding to pursue stories has announced that contributors will soon be able to donate their time and knowledge to an article, instead of just their money. Is it an innovative way to promote journalism (granted, an industry in need of philanthropy), or is it a low-budget version of a corporate investor with editorial influence?

Maybe it's naive to be resistant to these kinds of partnerships. After all, if the National Post and CBC can share content, anything is possible.

Posted on February 25, 2010

 Off the record 

Posted on February 25, 2010

Not loving CTV's Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games coverage? According to writer Joanne C. Gerstner, even our friends down South are peeved by the loss of the Olympic coverage bid by CBC. Gerstner's article, posted on both The New York Times and Toronto Star, says people who live near the 49th parallel have become used to watching CBC for Olympic coverage over the years as an alternative to NBC, but now they find themselves without another option.

CTV is not readily available in the U.S. or along the border, as opposed to CBC, so viewers in the U.S. are stuck without it this time around. There's even a small anti-NBC coverage Facebook group that says, "In Detroit, we miss CBC. They covered the games as if they were about the athletes and the competetion, and not self-promotion of network personalities."

Alex Strachan, writing for Canwest News Service, broke down the pros and cons with CTV's coverage of the games. His piece tends to favour CTV, saying it has brought fresh, entertaining coverage. And, with the added bonus that thankfully the CTV coverage doesn't use our tax dollars. But he's forgetting the main problem.

Last week Now Magazine's Susan G. Cole ranted about why the Olympics are bad. She ended with something to think about: "Remember when the Russians and the Americans won everything and our reporters--instead of themselves carrying the Olympic torch all over Canada or playing Canadian cheerleader while covering the actual events--dutifully reported on all those Canucks who came in 26th? Those were the days."

Posted on February 23, 2010

Do you like dots? And colours? And buttons you can click on? If yes, Slate Magazine's News Dots social network map is for you!

The map, which uses tagging software from Thomson Reuters, connects people, places and things mentioned in stories based on how frequently they appear, and presents the results as a social network web bonanza. It might not be the most functional tool unless you're conducting topic analysis research, but it promises at least six minutes of distraction time—guaranteed!

In other news, Shaw Communications won the court battle yesterday for 20 percent of equity and 80 percent of voting shares for Canwest's broadcast division. Beating out a competing bid from Catalyst Capital Group, which was backed by Goldman Sachs, the Asper family and former Rogers Communications CEO John Tory, it's interesting to note that carriers are increasingly becoming owners of the channels as well, and raises the question of how this increase will affect broadcasting in Canada. Although the Aspers might not be the best choice to lead Canwest (to put it lightly), it remains to be seen whether this sale will be a win for anyone involved.

Posted on February 20, 2010

An anonymous citizen-shot video capturing the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during last year's Iranian election protest has won the prestigious George Polk Award for Videography Tuesday--meaning that paid journalists really must enhance their efforts to produce quality work.

In the 40-second video, a woman is seen lying on the street, surrounded by men with their hands placed over her heart. While more people gather, blood starts protruding out of her mouth and nose.

Established by Long Island University in 1949, the prestigious awards recognize local, national, financial and foreign reporting of all streams. Some of the well-known names who have received George Polk awards include Gay Talese and Walter Cronkite. Tuesday, however, was the first time in the foundation's 61-year-long history that it has awarded an anonymous contestant. According to a CBC report the judges recognized his or her courage.

"This award celebrates the fact that, in today's world, a brave bystander with a cellphone camera can use video-sharing and social networking sites to deliver news," said John Darnton, curator of the George Polk Awards.

While I acknowledge the videographer's valiance, his or her accomplishment has shed a new light on citizen journalism: now any person with a camera phone can not only do my job, he or she can also win my awards. And that scares me, a lot.

Here is a link to the video. Warning: It contains graphic content

Posted on February 19, 2010

Canadian folk fans across the nation mourned singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot this afternoon after news of his death circulated on the internet and onto the sites of Canwest publications. Everyone was shocked. Especially Lightfoot, who heard of his own demise on the radio and spoke about it on CP24 a half hour after receiving the news. "I haven't gotten that much airplay of my music in weeks," the singer joked with the news station.

Accusations have already started to fly about how the rumour was started, with some blaming Lightfoot's friend Ronnie Hawkins for spreading the false information and others pointing to Twitter as the culprit. And as if using the social-networking microsite as a source to prove somebody's death isn't bad enough, the original Canwest story is now nowhere to be found. There's not even any mention of the news organization's error, let alone an apology for it. What ever happened to honesty, transparency and finding a primary source?

Posted on February 18, 2010

Shed your petty pound problems alongside your fashion mags. That is what the National Eating Disorder Information Centre is encouraging Torontonians to do at the corner of Queen Street West and Soho Street with its streetcar shelter ad that serves as a transparent trash receptacle for fashion magazines.

Set against a bright fuchsia backdrop the ad reads, "Shed your weight problem here," and according to NEDIC director, Merryl Bear, it was created to draw attention to the sizeist standards showcased in beauty magazines.

Acting editor in chief of Fashion, Bernadette Morra, supports the smart message. "It is the designers that are promoting this image," she says. "We at Fashion try our hardest to balance the reality and the fantasy."

But realistic body standards are pretty slim in women's style magazines. Think back to Self magazine's August cover of Kelly Clarkson where her naturally curvaceous body was tweaked and prodded into a mainstream shape. Editor in chief, Lucy Danziger, justified the retouching on her blog by claiming it made Clarkson "look her personal best... Did we publish an act of fiction? No."

So remove a mole here, some arm fat there. No biggie. But if your "personal best" isn't real then how can the image be anything but a farce?

Although fashion magazines have always featured the ideal body standard, it can be a heavy load to carry. Conveniently, Torontonians now have one more place to dump it.

Posted on February 17, 2010

Wikileaks, the non-profit disclosure website, in conjunction with the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, are proposing legislation to the Icelandic government that would offer greater protection for journalists and their sources.

The proposed legal changes would benefit investigative journalists, anti-corruption organizations and human rights groups. Specifics should include legal protection for whistleblowers and other sources.

In a BBC report, Wikileaks editor Julian Assange says the proposal would "protect the press around the world" and turn Iceland into a 'journalistic haven.'" This, he believes, will boost Iceland's global image.

Should the law be introduced, it would most likely entice journalists and other organizations to operate online via Iceland. However, if it comes down to needing physical refuge, I'm heading to Aruba, which still has no extradition treaties with Canada and no snow rather than more.

Posted on February 15, 2010

"Sometimes, watching him, it's like looking at the moon: You see the face of the man in the moon, but you know there's actually no man there," Ian Brown writes about his son, Walker, in his 2009 memoir, The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for his Disabled Son. Walker, who was born with cardio-faciocutaneous syndrome (CFC), a rare genetic mutation, "is globally delayed and can't speak," Brown tells us. "So I never know what's wrong. No one does."

But something everyone does know is that Brown is gold. Really, he is--The Boy in the Moon won the journalist Canada's two major non-fiction prizes this year. On Monday, Brown was awarded the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction and, on January 15, for the same book, he also received the $40,000 British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

When I think of Ian Brown, it's like thinking of the moon (and The Boy in the Moon too): Untouchable.

Posted on February 11, 2010

According to Advertising Age, Maxim is joining GQ and Esquire by making its issues available as an app for your iPod Touch or iPhone. The GQ and Esquire app each cost $2.99 per copy. With that price, and the convenience of not having to stuff one more item in my bag, I'm definitely interested. Imagine videos, slideshows and more embedded within your articles, exactly where you want it.

But, put a longer article on there and (for me) the appeal is gone; there's only so much time that can be spent reading on those screens before my eyes burn out. Still, I'd like to read a magazine on there at least once. With a screen so small, I don't know how appealing the layout design can be, but, perhaps, that doesn't matter to everyone else. If having these apps makes a magazine more accessible, and more read, then maybe more mags should put some or all of its content in an app form. Now if only I had an iPod Touch to try it out myself.

Posted on February 08, 2010

And some other choice phrases that might describe the snafu the Review team noticed in The Globe and Mail yesterday.

The first line of a Report on Business story by Susan Krashinsky reads: "Vancouver's radio dial is about to get a bit more bolshoy."

The story is about a Russian media group taking over Vancouver airwaves for the Olympics. Notice anything off about that first sentence?

Bolshie is a slang term that derives from the term "Bolshevik," meaning left-wing, socialist or uncooperative, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Bolshoy, on the other hand, refers to the Bolshoi Theatre, a world famous ballet and opera theatre in Moscow.

Somehow, I feel that's not the reference Krashinsky was going for.

Posted on February 05, 2010

Writing for this blog is no fun. It's true. As I searched for something to write about journalism or media that wasn't bleak or depressing, I found my options were slim. Do I opine on the ease of which Reuters' kills their own stories whenever Obama calls? Or maybe I ought to discuss Prism Magazine , the new online mag about national security published by Maher Arar?

No. None of that is very fun. So it was with great relief that I opened my inbox and found this email:

"Hey Tyler,

Seeing as you guys are arguably the preeminent J-School in the country, I figured we'd offer up our take on how to save the newspaper biz...

Cheers,

Chris & Noel"

First of all, that's a choice use of the word preeminent. Second, I was shocked to find Chris and Noel had put together 25 completely plausible ways of saving this sorry industry such as, "Make the job of paperboy more lucrative by giving the person something more valuable than newspapers to deliver, like firewood or drugs."

Finally, someone has taken the pressure off me to save the industry! My favourite item on the list, by the way, is number two. By way of pure coincidence, check rrj.ca next Tuesday to read 1,000 words on what I have to say about it.

Posted on February 03, 2010

Much has been made of the new Canada Periodical Fund, which Masthead calls the "biggest shake-up" to hit mag-funding in a long, long time.

We all had a fun time parsing the politics behind the changes the feds were making to magazine funding: Artsy, small circulation mags were upset to learn that they may get their funding cut off completely, since publications now have to meet a 5,000 minimum paid circulation to qualify for funding. Some larger magazines may actually get more money. Magazines aimed at minority groups will not have to meet a minimum circulation requirement, but, gay and lesbian-oriented titles will. No one will be able to receive more than $1.5 million in funding. Except farm publications. Hmm...what could it all mean?

Well, American mag-lovers should be doing some parsing of their own, according to David Westphal of the USC Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism. In a just-released study, he writes that funding and postal subsidies are "a matter of life and death" for many publications and that they've been quietly shrinking for years—since 1792, in fact.

Posted on February 03, 2010

Rupert Murdoch's success as one of the first newspaper publishers to put material online has now backfired. He is calling search engines such as Google News and Digg thieves for using their copyrighted content to fatten their own pockets.

"They are feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others. And their almost wholesale misappropriation of our stories is not 'fair use.' To be impolite, it's theft," Murdoch said in November.

As a result, publications such as National Post and Winnipeg Free Press may be making their readers pay, or worse, change copyright laws.

But Google claims that it generates a lot of traffic for newspaper websites, and if any publication wants its content off the engine it can add a simple programming code on to its website. Moreover, Sara Rotman Epps, a media analyst at Forrester Research, argues that Google is often used as a scapegoat for newspapers' decline in subscriptions and advertisements.

If copyright laws are changed, journalists, especially web reporters, will have to find original content for their articles. And as bad as this sounds, I feel worse for the source who could be interviewed 50 times or more on the same subject.

Posted on February 02, 2010
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